ACCC says Optus@Home ‘Unlimited’ Ads unacceptable

20 November 2000

Optus@Home cable Internet service will no longer be promoted as an unlimited download service where Internet use is limited, after Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action.

"Consumers had complained to the ACCC that rather than offering unrestricted downloads, Internet access via Optus@Home was effectively capped by an Acceptable User Policy ", ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today. "Optus had relied on this policy to terminate customers from the service.

"The owners of Optus@Home, Cable & Wireless Optus and Excite@Home, have removed all references to unlimited in relation to the service and have replaced the AUP with a practically focused fair-use policy and a mechanism to track a consumer’s use of the service.

"The ACCC has also required Optus@Home to compensate all customers terminated from the service under the previous AUP.

"This is the second undertaking that the ACCC has received from Optus in as many months relating to the advertising of services as ‘unlimited’ where the service is in fact limited by the presence of an acceptable user policy.

"This product was advertised as unlimited and was targeted to high-end users, yet Optus used the presence of an acceptable user policy to terminate services to those very people to whom the product was marketed.

"Acceptable user policies concern the ACCC because they do not provide consumers with any certainty and consumers can't usefully compare competing product offerings.

"If several service providers are offering products that purport to have no limits on how much customers can download, yet each of these service providers have acceptable user policies that they apply in different ways – how does the consumer know which product is right for them?

"Service providers need to be up-front about the products they offer – to do otherwise is to risk breaching the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974".

Professor Fels emphasised the importance of this issue with the explosion of Internet and other high bandwidth services.

"The ACCC is concerned to provide the telecommunications industry in general and network owners in particular with its position on what does and does not constitute acceptable advertising of an unlimited product where it is in fact limited by an acceptable user policy.

"The ACCC is and will continue to monitor the advertising of these sorts of products. Other industry players should take this opportunity to alter their own conduct if necessary".

Release number: 
MR 323/00
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